California State Superintendent Thurmond, California Assemblywoman Weber and Education Leaders Share Survey Revealing Key Challenges and Growing Inequalities for California Families During Coronavirus and Distance Learning

A phone survey of 1,400 Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) families highlights parent fears, lack of connectivity and skills to navigate the new norm.

San Diego, CA – California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber joined Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), a national nonprofit dedicated to building parent-teacher-school partnerships, to announce findings from a recent phone survey of 1,400 California families responding to a range of questions regarding education, digital connectivity and health. Education, digital connectivity and health inequities are compounded by the pandemic impacting families in unprecedented ways and devastating families already struggling economically and socially.

Leaders from The Education Trust-West, Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Californians Together, Public Advocates, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) San Diego and Imperial Counties, and The Children’s Partnership joined PIQE to share the findings and discuss the ramifications for students specifically from low-income, English Learners, and immigrant families.

According to the survey, there are still many families who are uninsured for health care and without access to home internet service. Language and literacy persist as obstacles in deciphering school messages and updates. Low to no digital literacy skills are worsening parents’ ability to support their children, teachers and school during distance learning. Families whose student is in special education or an English Learner (EL) are not receiving needed supports.

PIQE conducted the survey following the closure of schools. With most resources, applications and information as well as academic learning tools and school updates online, families were struggling to connect to resources and understand distance learning and tools needed to support their children.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 1 in 3 parents do not have health insurance, while most of their children do have coverage.
  • 1 in 3 parents do not have email addresses
  • More than a quarter of parents do not know if their student is turning in schoolwork.
  • While many students are receiving equipment necessary to participate in online classes, 21% did not.

Additionally, a subset of regional responses indicates:

  • More than 45% of EL families are not receiving support
  • More than 70% of families do not know if their student is meeting IEP requirements while on distance learning

Children who have support at home with homework assignments and online educational resources can access content and enrich their educational experience, developing skills they need for college and careers. Those that do not will fall behind and likely exacerbate learning and educational inequities. Critical to a family’s ability to support their child’s learning at home is having a relationship with their teacher(s) that is based on respect and trust; where communication is open and solution-oriented. This is true for distance learning but should also be considered as schools prepare for both the summer months and the reopening in the Fall.

“The impact on parents is beyond the stress of being a teacher’s aide or school counselor at home. In addition to worrying about basic necessities, parents are struggling to support their children with online technology or understand how to help when the technology does not work,” PIQE President and CEO Gloria Corral said. “Worse, families with little to no digital literacy or an established email cannot search and apply for online support or resources, much less reach out to their students’ teacher or school district.”

Civil Rights Project at UCLA pointed to the additional challenges that come with language and literacy barriers.

“It’s important to point out the additional challenges children and families are facing with language barriers and limited access to technology and reliable internet,” Co-Director of Civil Rights Project at UCLA Dr. Patricia Gandara said. “Not addressing these barriers can exacerbate learning gaps for the most vulnerable children.”

Public Advocates Inc., a nonprofit legal and advocacy organization, shared the importance of a holistic approach to help every California student.

“These troubling findings point to the need of the state to require local school districts to conduct formal needs assessments to ensure that every student’s needs are identified for correction,” Public Advocate Director of Legislative & Community Affairs Liz Guillen said. “It is not enough for the state to sit back and trust local control with minimal guidance—it has a duty to assess and correct for the constitutional right of education to be meaningful.”

Based on parent surveys, interviews as well as input from PIQE statewide partners, PIQE developed a policy framework to strengthen supports for family engagement by developing the capacity of educators, skills building for families and targeted strategies for English Learners that address the inequities faced by families. The policy framework recommendations are found at